Commerce Department data released Tuesday morning show February housing starts were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 698,000.
There’s good news and bad news in Tuesday’s data.
February starts declined 1.1% compared with the upwardly revised January figure. And single-family starts declined 9.9% to a rate of 457,000. The total-starts figure fell below expectations, as analysts expected about 710,000.
The revised figure for January 2012 -- 706,000 -- gives that month the distinction of being the highest since October 2008.
More good news for the home-building industry lies in the year-over-year data. Compared with February 2011, total housing starts increased 34.7%. And single-family starts grew 17.8% year over year.
This good news, however, is tempered by the fact that February 2011 was one of the two worst months on record for residential construction.
Also released today, building permits in February increased 5.1% to an annual rate of 717,000.